SAN DIEGO — San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliot is suing two large automakers, alleging the companies failed to install standard anti-theft technology.

In a lawsuit filed Friday on behalf of the People of the State of California, the City Attorney’s office said that Hyundai and Kia failed to meet industry norms, making their vehicles highly susceptible to being stolen.

According to the lawsuit, Hyundai and Kia failed to adopt immobilizer technology to ensure that their vehicles could not be started without keys, which led to viral videos circulating to show how easily their vehicles could be stolen.

The lawsuit covers the period from 2011 through 2021.

“Making sure cars are not easy to steal keeps dangerous drivers in stolen vehicles off the road,”  Elliott said. “Hyundai’s and Kia’s decisions to put cost savings and profits over public safety has had significant consequences for San Diego and its residents, leading to a substantial increase in vehicle thefts, reckless driving, related crime sprees, and public harm.” 

According to Elliot, Hyundai and Kia owners in San Diego felt the impact of this in 2022. The San Diego Police Department reported 515 stolen Hyundai or Kia vehicles that year, with the amount of stolen vehicle reports doubling for the second half of 2022.

The lawsuit alleges that the companies created a public nuisance that could have been avoided if they installed immobilizers that would cost roughly $200 more per vehicle.

Stolen Hyundai or Kia vehicles were involved in a number of incidents that risked public safety, according to the lawsuit, including the following:

  • Apr. 17, 2022: A stolen Kia was used in a drive-by shooting in San Diego. The driver hit several parked cars while trying to flee the scene.
  • May 19, 2022: A stolen Kia was used in a high-speed pursuit where the suspect drove against traffic on State Route 163.
  • May 23, 2022: A stolen Kia was used in a pursuit from Chula Vista to Orange County after the suspect hit a police vehicle and fled before ultimately being stopped by a spike strip.
  • Jul. 30, 2022: A minor crashed a stolen Hyundai into a tree in Normal Heights while attempting to flee from police.
  • Oct. 22, 2022: Five minors fled after crashing a stolen Kia into a fire hydrant in Chula Vista, leaving the wreckage behind.
  • Feb 9, 2023: A suspect in a stolen Kia drove up to speeds of 120 mph with a six-year-old child in the car while leading police on a chase, driving without headlights at times. The pursuit ended after the vehicle burst into flames in Mira Mesa.

According to the City Attorney’s Office, at least two insurance companies have stopped writing policies for certain Hyundai and Kia models due to the increased amount of thefts.